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The Dangers Of Staff Burnout And How To Combat It By Guest Blogger Elena Taylor

burnout disrupting the status quo of senior living hateful to grateful patient engagement Nov 18, 2021

Last year, I had the opportunity to intern at a long-term care facility and rehab facility in the middle of the pandemic. I came in eager to learn and work with the senior population—an age group which was new to me. During my time, I learned about how long-term facilities operate and how they function in a crisis. One thing that I knew before coming into this placement was how understaffed long-term care facilities could be and the staff burnout that accompanies it.

Burnout is the mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion that often comes from working overtime or very strenuous jobs. Prior to Covid-19, nursing home jobs were already strenuous, and many staff regularly worked overtime hours, so the pandemic exacerbated these issues. Burnout not only affects the individual experiencing it but the people around them. Some of the signs I witnessed and occasionally felt were exhaustion, irritability, headaches, and insomnia, to name a few. One nurse I became particularly close with lost a close friend and could not take off work to mourn her loss properly. The following weeks, she told me she had stopped eating and sleeping and often was at work for more than 12 hours a day. Burnout can also prevent us from practicing healthy self-care activities.

Once burnout begins to affect a staff member, it can cause demotivation at work and leave more room for errors. Sometimes this looked like the staff having less patience with the residents, checking on the residents less frequently, or more serious errors such as medication errors. When working in a clinical setting and with a vulnerable population such as geriatrics, mistakes and oversight can be disastrous. Thankfully, the supervisors and administrators recognized the burnout and made three significant changes to improve work-life.

The first thing the administrators did was hold a team meeting with all the staff. The goal of this meeting was to remind and reestablish the roles and responsibilities of each department. When one department was not doing its duties, another department would have to pick up the slack. This meeting enabled open communication between departments, addressed any confusion, and resulted in better staff productivity.

The second thing the administrators did was hire a consultant to assess the efficiency of our systems already in place. The key here is, work smarter, not harder. This consultant looked at every system we had, from filing old records to distributing medication to residents. From there, the consultant tweaked existing systems, created new systems, and helped educate our staff on maintaining helpful systems.
The final thing the administrators did was create monthly staff meetings that encouraged fun and relationship-building between staff members. Each month had a theme; there were contests, prizes, food, and lots of music. I loved these meetings because they chose a staff member to honor each month who had gone above and beyond. I believe this was one of the most successful changes because it brought joy to the staff and, most importantly, reminded them how appreciated they are.

We all want to find a healthy balance between work and our personal lives. Burnout is a sign that something isn’t working, and it needs to be fixed. Do you think you can spot when your staff is beginning to burn out? And if so, how are you addressing burnout in your organization?

Guest Blogger Elena Taylor is a Jenerations intern. She is a BSW graduate from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and a Social Work Phi Alpha Honors Society member. She is now pursuing her MSW with advanced standing through Salisbury University.

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